LAHORE, Feb 7: Pakistan Muslim League-N chief Nawaz Sharif urged the government on Thursday to take the Taliban offer for talks seriously and immediately start the dialogue process.

“The government should pay serious attention to the talks offer by Taliban and begin a serious, meaningful and result-oriented dialogue without any delay,” a statement issued here on Thursday by the former prime minister said.

“Though the government does not hold such a (good) track record that one can stand a guarantor for it, we support the talks’ process,” he said, referring to the Taliban’s condition of three guarantors for the talks.

In a video message issued on Feb 3, the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan’s spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan had said that they could engage in talks only if three senior politicians acted as guarantors.

“We need solid guarantors who can assure us about the army, because the army is the real power in Pakistan,” he had said.

The Taliban asked Nawaz Sharif, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, and JI Amir Munawar Hassan to play the role of mediators in talks with the military. The JUI-F has expressed interest in such mediation while the JI says it will take a decision at an appropriate time.

Political analysts here are seeing the statement as a message for the establishment as well as international powers looking for a peaceful resolution of the Afghan crisis after the planned pullout of US forces in 2014.

They say that as Pentagon is desperately looking for a mediator to ensure safe return of its troops from Afghanistan, the Pakistan Army also needs a respite from the 10-year war it has been fighting along the Afghan borders.

They say the call for initiating dialogue with the Taliban is the first hint by Nawaz Sharif that he is ready to become an intermediary provided he is given his rightful share in national politics.

During his first tenure as prime minister the PML-N chief brokered a peace deal among Afghan Mujahideen to establish their rule in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of Soviet troops.

Mr Sharif also said the PML-N backed the process of dialogue with the Taliban for the sake of peace in the region, particularly Afghanistan. He recalled that resolutions adopted by parliament had also stressed concrete steps for setting things right and said his party had always supported dialogue for resolving issues.

All relevant parties, he added, should start negotiations with sincerity and an open mind.

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